“Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” – Isaiah 43:19, ESV
If you know me at all, you would know that there is not a single bone in my body that has any sort of gardening ability. It is just something that I have never had an interest in, nor have I ever had the ability to keep a plant alive for more than a couple of days. My mom, on the other hand, loves to tend her garden. Our home is filled to the brim with various houseplants inside, flowers and herbs on the porch, and a small garden in the yard for vegetables. My mom takes great care of these plants. She sets a firm watering schedule all throughout the Spring and Summer months, and ropes my dad and I into too. There’s a small part of me that dreads the weekend in June when she heads to the beach with her sisters because I know there will be a training session so that I know exactly what to water and for how long.
In my classroom, there is a requirement from the folks that rate Pre-K classrooms for state licensing that says that we must have at least three living things in our Science/Discovery center. Our county says no pets, so this then comes down to three living plants. We usually try to make the watering of these plants a classroom job, but luckily for me, I usually have at least one assistant whose thumb is greener than mine. They’ve had to rescue many a plant from the brink of death for me.
Last school year in the Spring of 2015, I had the bright idea to have a family event at school in which parents could come in and help their child plant a flower in a few flower beds that I borrowed from my mom’s stash. The kids loved getting their hands in the dirt and labeling which flowers were theirs. We kept the rectangular flower beds out on our playground to help spruce up the space out there. The part that I didn’t think about, clearly, was the fact that someone was going to need to keep these plants alive. I was barely keeping myself alive at this point. Weeks later, on the last day of school for the year, I brought the plants home in a pitiful state. The flowers looked tired, pitiful, and weary due to the lack of care that was given to them in those final weeks. It was an interesting parallel to how I felt at that point myself, as I left school for the summer to recover from that year.
Through God’s grace and strength, I survived that school year but it was not without difficulty on my part and a good amount of tears shed. I had three, sometimes four, students with significant behavior needs that seemed to feed off each other and probably should have never been in the same classroom. Administration got very used to having to come to my classroom multiple times a day for students that were melting down and physically acting out. We were slapped, kicked, and bitten on a near daily basis. I also had parents who, although strong advocates for their children, created additional stress and difficult situations. I was not prepared for the emotional and mental toll that this classroom dynamic would have on me and because of my lack of spiritual foundation at the time, I was basically at rock bottom. I had just left my part-time job that had me working seven days a week and as of October of that year, when things took a nosedive in my classroom, I hadn’t been to church in months.
At this point, in His perfect timing and wisdom, God began to open my eyes and my heart to not just returning to church but into a relationship with Him that would be far deeper than anything I had before. I felt myself become pulled to check out a church, whose signs I had driven past for years without a second thought, and eventually finding a church home and a community that I hadn’t realized I had been missing. Although this particular season of my life ultimately resulted in me finding truth and hope in a new, deeper relationship with Christ it was still a trying time of my life.
A couple of weeks ago, nearly a year after my students planted those flowers, my mom was watering some of her outdoor plants and she made an interesting comment to me.
“You know those flowers you brought home last year? I didn’t think they were going to survive,” she said, “But they have. They didn’t die! They came back and they’re actually blooming!”
When those words washed over me, I kind of wanted to cry. One of my first thoughts was, I am those flowers. I didn’t crumble under the weight of that year like I felt that I did. I was able to see Christ in the midst of my turmoil and stress and with that new foundation and lens to view the world, I survived. I survived something that seemed so impossible at the time, but isn’t that how it usually works? We allow ourselves to become so heavy with the burden of our circumstances, but if we pause to shift some of the load over to Christ’s more than capable shoulders we would be amazed once we got to the other side. With the strength of Christ, I made it through that challenging season just as I have survived the ones after it. When things felt like they were falling apart, they were actually falling into place so that I could be in a place to fully rely on God for strength when I would later lose four family members in a four month period just a few months later. Our God can make paths through the wilderness, even rivers in the wastelands and deserts of our lives if we allow him to. After all, the things that threaten to overtake us are usually the very same things that shape us into better people and better followers of Christ.
“You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent. Lord my God, I will praise you forever.” – Psalm 30:11-12, NIV